In death, 80-year-old man gives gift of life

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ROSSVILLE, Kan. -- More than 120,000 Americans are awaiting organ transplants. There's clearly a need for donors of all ages. When a Rossville, Kansas man died last month, he proved you're never too old to give.

Walt Brown's family says he had a great sense of humor, but he was very serious about his last wishes. He put them in what his daughter, Crystal Havens, called his death binder.

Brown wrote, "In case I'm unconscious form a heart attack, etc., to do not resuscitate."

He had also repeatedly told his daughter, a nurse, that he wanted to be an organ donor. So when Brown suffered a stroke in early November and was declared brain dead, Havens approached hospital staff about donation.

"I was concerned because I had never seen anybody that old be able to donate before," she said.

Brown, after all, was 80 years old.

"I think there's a lot of assumptions made that as you get older, your organs are not transplantable, and that couldn't be further from the truth," said Lori Markham of the Midwest Transplant Network.

Markham said it depends on your health history and the function of the organ at the time. The network has had seven donors this year over age 70, including Brown. Doctors looked at his 80-year-old liver and saw a good one. It went to a man in his early 70s. But Markham says with certain organs, the recipient is just as likely to be younger.

"With livers and hearts and lungs, those recipients are dying," she said.

And need the organ regardless of the donor's age. Brown's give of life is a comfort to his wife and family as they approach Christmas.

"I think people that give of their life -- that is the sacrificial gift of all times," said Jeannine Brown.

"It's helpful knowing my dad's out there still helping somebody else and still making somebody happy," said Havens.

Just as he made his family happy.

Brown's lungs and kidneys were also donated for research.

A new study from Italy found that many kidneys from even the oldest donors result in high survival rates and kidney function.

The transplant network encourages you to share your wishes with loved ones. Don't assume that you can't save lives through donation.